Monday 5 December 2016

Disappointment as 176-year-old Irish time capsule opened to reveal parchment too wet to read

Published 24/04/2015 | 09:34

Inpresspics handout photo of the swollen piece of paper discovered in the cylindrical lead time capsule which was buried in 1839 and discovered 175 years later during the regeneration of Brook Park by Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of the swollen piece of paper discovered in the cylindrical lead time capsule which was buried in 1839 and discovered 175 years later during the regeneration of Brook Park by Derry City and Strabane District Council. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of the medallion discovered under the wax seal which is one of the objects discovered in the cylindrical lead time capsule which was buried in 1839 and discovered 175 years later during the regeneration of Brook Park by Derry City and Strabane District Council. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council's regeneration of the Park. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council's regeneration of the Park. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire

Excitement was tinged with frustration as a 176-year-old time capsule was opened to reveal a rolled parchment too wet to unfurl.

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The 1839 lead container unearthed in the foundations of a long-gone orphanage in Derry earlier this month was prised open with painstaking precision in front of a captivated audience in the city's Tower Museum.

Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council's regeneration of the Park. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council's regeneration of the Park. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire

Mystery deepened when the lid was peeled back to show a bottle plugged with a red wax seal.

Inside were a number of coins and a discoloured roll of parchment.

But mounting anticipation was punctured when professional conservator Stefanie White broke the news that the paper was too wet and swollen to remove from the bottle.

The expert said it would have to undergo a drying process before it could be taken out and unrolled.

Inpresspics handout photo of a coin discovered under the wax seal which is one of the objects discovered in the cylindrical lead time capsule which was buried in 1839 and discovered 175 years later during the regeneration of Brook Park by Derry City and Strabane District Council. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of a coin discovered under the wax seal which is one of the objects discovered in the cylindrical lead time capsule which was buried in 1839 and discovered 175 years later during the regeneration of Brook Park by Derry City and Strabane District Council. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire

Tower Museum curator Roisin Doherty said the wait would have to go on to read the parchment.

"If we had proceeded with that it would have meant it would have been damaged," she said.

"It's a bit frustrating but because it is part of the process of conservation we need to take our time."

The coins were removed from the bottle. One was dated 1817.

Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council??s regeneration of the Park.
Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire
Inpresspics handout photo of Conservator Stefanie White, from Donegal, opening the 175 years old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park, which was discovered during work as part of Derry City and Strabane Council??s regeneration of the Park. Martin McKeown/Inpresspics/PA Wire

The capsule was discovered by council staff involved in redevelopment work in Derry's Brooke Park, where the Gwyn Institute orphanage once stood. The children's home was built with part of a £40,000 endowment from wealthy city businessman John Gwyn.

The old building was fire bombed during the Northern Ireland Troubles and demolished in 1986.

There are plans for a new building on the site as a feature of the restored Victorian Park.

Ms Doherty said it was not uncommon for such time capsules to be buried with the foundation stone of old buildings in Ireland.

"This tradition that is observed - and it's been going on since medieval times - when building work starts on a building, what happens is they lay the time capsule within the foundation stone," she said.

"They would usually do this in the north eastern part of the building. This is well documented."

Belfast Telegraph

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